’Tis the season for family, friends and feasts. For those having turkey, please reference my Nov. 21 column for a breakdown on the traditional turkey menu. However, for those planning on ham, lamb or beef, we have some suggestions to pair.
Every celebration is best kicked off with an amuse-bouche – a bite sized hors d’oeuvres – along with a glass of champagne or sparkling wine. This is always a great way to welcome friends and family as they walk in the door for your holiday festivities. Once the bubbles are gone, perhaps some light crisp white or dry rosè would be the best pre-game beverage.
Once it’s time for the grandiose meal, there are some guidelines to make sure your meal is appropriately paired with a suitable wine.
Are you having ham? If so, there are certainly some important rules. First and foremost, ham can be deliciously salty and sweet. The best wine for ham is without question dry rosè. The touch of delicate strawberry and watermelon notes along with a crisp acidity works well with the sweet and saltiness of ham. Not a fan of dry rosè? For red wine drinkers, it’s important to be open to lighter reds with higher acidity. Pinot noir, Beaujolais, Barbera and Cotes du Rhones work well for this meal with Cotes du Rhones being the fullest.
Having lamb or beef roast? Attention full-body red lovers: This is the meal for your hearty reds. Sure, cabernet sauvignon will be most people’s go-to, but there are some outstanding options that will suit that palate as well. Looking for a wine with some bottle age? Wines from Spain and Portugal will marry magnificently and can be found with more than 10 years of bottle age and are bargains, relatively speaking. The southern Rhone Valley in France boasts full-body spicy wines at a great value also; look for wines from Vacqueyras, Gigondas and Chateauneuf du Pape. Lovers of Italian wines can rest assured that the coveted Brunello di Montalcino, Barbaresco and Barolo will stand tall next to these fattier cuts of meat. If you’re after a soft, voluptuous, full-body red, look no further than Amarone from northeastern Italy. These wines are literally made from raisins and offer deep, dark, rich flavors suitable for roasts.
Time for dessert. Dessert wines are meant to go with desserts, no joke. The fascinating thing about these wines is that when paired with desserts, their sweetness disappears along with the sweetness of the dessert itself. Sweet cancels sweet. With that, our favorite pairing for pumpkin pie is a tawny port. Pecan pie is sublime with Sauternes, a white French dessert wine. Chocolate desserts are best with dark ruby ports from Portugal.
At the end of the day though, the importance of the holidays is to be with family and friends and to cherish the time we get to spend together. Ultimately, whichever wine is in your glass is the best wine. Happy Holidays.
Alan Cuenca is an accredited oenophile and owner of Put a Cork in It, a Durango wine store. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.